The Other Protestantism

Liberal Protestants and orthodox Protestant both tell the story of modern Protestantism as the opposition of liberalism and orthodoxy. Already in the 19th century, FC Baur doubted this scheme, and suggested there was a third form of Protestantism – a gnostic Protestantism.

Cyril O’Regan’s Gnostic Return in Modernityis the first volume of a massive effort to defend and update Bauer’s thesis: “although histreatment of some figures to whom he casually ascribes gnosis issuperficial, Baurs general grasp of the discourses of both the ancientand modern periods dwarfs that of most of his twentieth-centurycritics. Again, there has been a real failure to note that Baursaccount of the Gnostic character of a select band of Protestant discoursesfrom Boehme to German Idealism is determinate in theway few other proposals of the return of Gnosticism in the modernage are. In addition, not enough attention has been paid to Baurshint of a narrative criterion whereby we might judge whether post-Reformation and post-Enlightenment discourses are continuouswith Gnosticism of the first centuries. And finally and relatedly,Baurs reflection on the interrelation between the reemergence ofgnosis in the modern period and the consequent change in meaningand function of the Trinity has never enjoyed the prominenceit deserves” (2).

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